Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

It's back: The food coloring/hyperactivity debate and the red bug

AD/HDADDadditivesADHDartificial coloringattentionattention deficitdietfdafeingoldfood coloringfood dyehyperactivity

Back in the 1970s, when Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder was called (lower-cased) hyperactivity, worried parents attended many a meeting touting the Feingold Diet, which called for easing symptoms by having children eat foods without artificial ingredients such as preservatives and coloring -- no easy task in the pre-organic days.

Some parents swore by the diet, but studies were inconclusive. During the 1980s the big uptick in Ritalin to treat ADHD began and concerns about food additives faded into the background. Now those concerns are back -- at least at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, where a panel will once again review the evidence on food dyes. (It did so a quarter-century ago without reaching any conclusions.)

The background findings so far don't offer a ringing endorsement for the idea that artificial food dyes are causing widespread ADHD -- but say there's some reason to think that for a some children with ADHD it may worsen symptoms:

Based on our review of the data from published literature, FDA concludes that a causal relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population has not been established. For certain susceptible children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and other problem behaviors, however, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives. Findings from relevant clinical trials indicate that the effects on their behavior appear to be due to a unique intolerance to these substances and not to any inherent neurotoxic properties.

If this is true, does it call for banning artificial food coloring, requiring special labels -- or simply advising parents of children with ADHD to be aware?

Now, about the red bug: Couldn't resist divulging a little info about where the natural red color, carmine, comes from: a scale insect, also called the cochineal bug, that is a parasite on prickly-pear cactus. The insect produces a red pigment that it stores in its body fluids. After Hernan Cortes discovered the coloring in use by the Mayans he brought it to Europe, where for hundreds of years cochineal was the primary red dye for cloth and rivaled gold in price per weight.

-- Karin Klein

 

Comments () | Archives (11)

The comments to this entry are closed.

dee gee

the 'attention deficit' comes from a deficit in attention given to the child. thus, 'attention deficit'..... children dumped in daycare facilities and children dumped on nannies, 'playdates' and other sitters almost ALWAYS suffer from a deficit of attention given to them by their parents, especially their mothers. everyone knows that such mothers like to claim their children are 'out of control' so they can drug them up and they won't have to deal with them while they are yakking on their cellphones. when a child sings, plays, makes noise, cries, fights with siblings, etc.... this is NORMAL.... YOU as a mother HAVE TO deal with it. there's NOTHING wrong with your child. just give them alot of LOVE AND ATTENTION! or don't have any children. get a parrot or better yet, a cat instead.

cinnamon barks

dee gee, interesting screed, but where's the facts? There are plenty of ADD/ADHD sufferers who are past retirement age. I'm nearly retirement age and my brother and I are both ADD. Our mother was a typical homemaker. I know plenty of ADD/ADHD sufferers around the same age whose mothers were also homemakers.

dee gee

i said it was an excuse for drugging up their children. get yourself a nice little kitty cat.. they like to be ignored.

Katherine

I think sugar is the culprit. It is hidden in so many foods and there is so much of it in sodas and cereal. Parents need to steer their kids away from sugar, not an easy task in today's society!

Simi

Katherine,

Most cereals and sodas that kids eat are loaded with petroleum preservatives and/or color additives - that is where our kids have the problem. Our kids have not had preservatives or color additives in their food for two years now. It makes a huge difference and when done right - it does not cost any more than the junk.

kullervo

I gave up azo food colorings when I discovered they were giving me migraines. I should say, I have tried to avoid them. The number of products that use azo colors in this country is startling. I wish I were in Europe, where they are banned, and hope to see them banned here as soon as possible. I hate losing a day or two out of my life because I ate a chocolate cookie that somehow required Red 40 in its ingredient list.

Jenn

I personally can't think of a single reason that companies feel the need to put artificial coloring in foods. My sister is allergic to all artificial food colorings. She gets terrible stomache aches that can last for days from the ingestion of the smallest amount of these food colorings. Not only are they found in foods, but in nearly every medicine on the market. It was a struggle for her to even find everything from cough medicine and ibuprofen to prescription medications.

Spelaea

Nonsense, dee gee. My mum was a stay at home mother, and I was even home schooled for several years. She paid tons of attention to me.

And you know what? I have ADD. As far as I know, I've always had it. It's a issue with the wiring of the neurons in the brain, and problems with the uptake of certain hormones and brain chemicals.

It's not a cry for help, or attention, or an excuse to go on drugs (BTW, the drug I take is a non-stimulant medication). It's a legitimate learning disorder and mental health issue.

So please, don't talk about things you know nothing about, because ignorant statements like that just make it harder for people who had ADD/ADHD to have their issue recognized, respected, and treated.

Spelaea

Nonsense, dee gee. My mum was a stay at home mother, and I was even home schooled for several years. She paid tons of attention to me.

And you know what? I have ADD. As far as I know, I've always had it. It's a issue with the wiring of the neurons in the brain, and problems with the uptake of certain hormones and brain chemicals.

It's not a cry for help, or attention, or an excuse to go on drugs (BTW, the drug I take is a non-stimulant medication). It's a legitimate learning disorder and mental health issue.

So please, don't talk about things you know nothing about, because ignorant statements like that just make it harder for people who had ADD/ADHD to have their issue recognized, respected, and treated.

Spelaea

Nonsense, dee gee. My mum was a stay at home mother, and I was even home schooled for several years. She paid tons of attention to me.

And you know what? I have ADD. As far as I know, I've always had it. It's a issue with the wiring of the neurons in the brain, and problems with the uptake of certain hormones and brain chemicals.

It's not a cry for help, or attention, or an excuse to go on drugs (BTW, the drug I take is a non-stimulant medication). It's a legitimate learning disorder and mental health issue.

So please, don't talk about things you know nothing about, because ignorant statements like that just make it harder for people who had ADD/ADHD to have their issue recognized, respected, and treated.

Mr Michael

I work with elementary kids. Whenever we have a problem with kids at school.... hyper this or can't focus that....The first thing we do is have the parents STOP ALL food coloring, especially RED 3 and RED 40. NO RED ANYTHING, no artificial colors period.... AND have the parents stop all refined sugars and corn syrups. In 95% plus of the cases the kids settle down in about a month. Try to refining your child’s diet for a month before your place them on a drug.


Connect

Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Video


Categories


Recent Posts
Reading Supreme Court tea leaves on 'Obamacare' |  March 27, 2012, 5:47 pm »
Candidates go PG-13 on the press |  March 27, 2012, 5:45 am »
Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »

Archives
 


About the Bloggers
The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.



In Case You Missed It...